ka'-leb (kalebh; in the light of the cognate Syriac and Arabic words, the meaning is not "dog," which is kelebh, in Hebrew, but "raging with canine madness"; Chaleb): As a person, Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, occurs in the story of the spies (Nu 13 ff). He represents the tribe of Judah as its prince (Nu 13:6; compare 13:2). While the majority of the men sent out by Moses bring back evil report, Caleb and Hoshea, or Joshua, the son of Nun, are the only ones to counsel the invasion of the promised land (Nu 13:30; 14:6 ff). Accordingly, these two alone are permitted to survive (Nu 14:38; 32:12). Upon the conquest and distribution of the land by Joshua, Caleb reminds the leader of the promise made by God through Moses, and so he receives Hebron as an inheritance for himself and his descendants (Josh 14:6-15), after driving out from thence the Anakim who were in possession of the city (Josh 15:14). In the parallel account in Jdg 1:8 ff, the dispossession of the Canaanite inhabitants of Hebron is ascribed to Judah (verse 10). Both accounts agree in mentioning Othniel, a younger brother of Caleb, as the conqueror of Kiriath-sepher or Debir; as his reward he receives the hand of Achsah, Caleb's daughter. Achsah is given by her father a portion of the Southland; but, upon request, she obtains a more fruitful locality with upper and nether springs (Josh 15:15-19; Jdg 1:12-15).
In 1 Sam 30:14 Caleb is undoubtedly the name of a clan which is, moreover, differentiated from Judah. Modern scholars therefore assume that Caleb was originally an independent clan which in historical times merged with Judah. As Caleb is called the son f Kenaz (Jdg 1:13) or the Kenizzite (Nu 32:12), it is further believed that the Calebites were originally associated with an Edomite clan named Kenaz (Gen 36:11), and that they entered their future homes in the southern part of Israel from the south. Their migration up north would then be reflected in the story of the spies.
In the genealogical tables (1 Ch 2), Caleb is made a descendant of Judah through his father Hezron. He is the brother of Jerahmeel, and the "father" of Hebron and of other towns in Judah. (Chelubai, 1 Ch 9:9, is apparently identical with Caleb.)
Nabal, with whom David had an encounter, is called a Calebite, i.e. one belonging to the house of Caleb (1 Sam 25:3).
Max. L. Margolis